The Secret to Online Safety
Courtesy Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica
Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock
It’s time to ask yourself an uncomfortable question: how many of your passwords are so absurdly weak that they might as well provide no security at all? Those of you using "123456," "abc123," or even just "password" might already know it’s time to make some changes. And using pets’ names, birth dates, your favorite sports teams, or adding a number or capital letter to a weak password isn’t going to be enough.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’re going to focus on how to use a password manager, software that can help you go from passwords like "111111" to "6WKBTSkQq8Zn4PtAjmz7" without making you want to pull out all your hair. For good measure, we’ll talk about how creating fictitious answers to password reset questions (e.g. mother’s maiden name) can make you even more resistant to hacking.
Why you can’t just wing it anymore
A password manager helps you create long, complicated passwords for websites and integrates into your browser, automatically filling in your usernames and passwords. Instead of typing a different password into each site you visit, you only have to remember one master password.
Why bother? The algorithms and tools hackers use to crack passwords are becoming ever more sophisticated and powerful, as we explained last year in "Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger." Even people with no experience cracking passwords can do so with the tools available today. And as Wired‘s Mat Honan discovered from personal experience, the interconnectedness of online accounts coupled with insecure password reset mechanisms creates gigantic risk. Once a hacker gets into one of your accounts, all of them may be vulnerable.